These five Ravens bubble boys need to bring it

I'm torn when it comes to the final week of the NFL preseason.

As a fan in general, I have very little interest in watching a bunch of second- and third-stringers play exhibition games that don't have much significance in the grand scheme of things.


I know I'm not alone on this one.

But as a member of the media, someone who has been watching this Ravens team come together over the past few months, I'm curious to see how things shake out for the bubble boys who get one last chance to make a lasting impression.


So while the starters will be sitting and the action will be sloppy, Thursday night's preseason finale against the Rams is must-see TV for me — and it's not just because I get paid to tune in. In particular, I'll be watching these five fringe players who must step it up to make the squad:

••• DT Arthur Jones: Jones, a 2010 fifth-round pick out of Syracuse, is one of a few offseason additions the Ravens made on the defensive line. The influx of talent and depth has made it tough to predict who will stick and who will get cut. Jones {photo by The Baltimore Sun} can play, he has a good attitude and he is a recent draft pick, which always helps. He should see plenty of action Thursday, and he must make an impact to pull ahead of a fellow lineman — Lamar Divens, Kelly Talavou or Brandon McKinney — or two.

••• ILB Jason Phillips: The second-year linebacker out of TCU — not the goofy kid with big sideburns of the same name who played on my high school tennis team — has been excellent in the preseason, leading the Ravens with 11 tackles.

It's a crowded competition at linebacker, though, and if Phillips can't pass Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe or Tavares Gooden on the depth chart, he has to make a pretty compelling argument in St. Louis for carrying a fifth inside linebacker.

••• CB/PR Prince Miller: Ravens veterans are excited about the shrewd trade for Josh Wilson — "I know we just got better as a team," Fabian Washington (@FABEWASH31) tweeted — but it's bad news for roster hopefuls at cornerback.

Miller, an undrafted rookie, was already facing long odds to make the team. His play at cornerback improved slowly as camp progressed, but not enough to warrant giving him a spot on that alone. Miller should be the Ravens' primary punt  returner against the Rams, and he will really need to shine back there to beat out veteran Travis Fisher and second-year player K.J. Gerard for the team's final cornerback spot.

••• QB Troy Smith: The Troy Smith era in Baltimore could come to a close Thursday, the presence of capable QBs Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger more of a reason than his preseason play. The Ravens have carried three quarterbacks under coach John Harbaugh, but that could change in 2010.

Smith will get one last chance to show he's too talented to let slip away. If he doesn't make the Ravens, a strong performance in his finale will garner him a roster spot on another squad.


••• WR Demetrius Williams: This is the seventh or eighth last chance for Williams — or maybe it just feels that way. A fourth-round pick in 2006, the 6-foot-2 wideout has tantalized the Ravens and their fans with his big-play potential, only to follow it up with ugly drops and stretcher rides.

His Ravens career was thrown another life preserver when Donte' Stallworth, the team's primary deep threat, broke his foot. Williams is the most likely candidate to fill the void, but he first must hold off Marcus Smith and David Reed. You have to figure he'll somehow find a way to remain one of the "Mighty Men of Baltimore," though in his case, it would be a misnomer.